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Laughing To Keep From Crying
5/25/2016 6:41:10 PM

By Barney Blakeney

May 17 was the 62nd anniversary of the Supreme Court decision in Brown vs. Topeka, Kansas School Board which struck down legal racial segregation in U.S. public schools. That’s almost funny because most public schools in the United States remain segregated. If racially segregated public schools across the United States is funny, that reality in Charleston County is a gut buster.

I often use the phrase ‘laugh to keep from crying’ to express situations as heartbreaking as the segregation of public schools in Charleston County. I find the racism that defines segregated public schools in our community heartbreaking. And knowing that what I see locally is perpetrated nationwide is even more disheartening.

Some white folks just don’t get it. I think they’re either delusional or down right deceitful when they fail to recognize or admit that racism plays so strong a role in the reality of segregated public schools in Charleston County 62 years after the Supreme Court ordered integration. I always hear the rationale that housing patterns are responsible for the segregation we see in our schools. Don’t they realize racism contributes to housing patterns?

When I looked at recent statistics about the racial make up of Charleston County schools, I found the numbers astounding. Although the number of Black and white students attending county schools are about the same (about 20,000 Black students and about 21,000 white students) where they go to school paints a distinct picture of segregation.

There are some 85 schools in the district. While a few are racially diverse - some seven or eight schools - most are largely segregated. And just as racial segregation before Brown vs. Topeka resulted in inferior Black schools, the same holds true today.

At the district’s lowest performing schools, Black student populations consistently is about 90 percent or higher. They include Mary Ford Elementary, North Charleston High, Burke High, Chicora Elementary, Edmund A. Burns Elementary, and Lincoln Middle High.

At the district’s highest performing schools, white student populations also range around 90 percent or higher. They include the Academic Magnet High, Buist Academy, the Charleston County School of the Arts, East Cooper Montessori, Mount Pleasant Academy, Thomas C. Cario Elementary and Montessori Community School.

At Academic Magnet High School, 15 students are Black and 539 are white. At Burke High, 294 students are Black and only four are white. At Charleston County School of the Arts, 92 students are Black and 467 students are white. At James Island Charter High School, 409 students are Black and 1,016 students are white. At Greg Mathis Charter High School, 66 students are Black and one student is white. At Garrett Academy of Technology, 591 students are Black and 13 students are white. Guess which schools are high performing academically and which are low performing academically.

While the Supreme Court established the law regarding segregated schools, creative ways to circumvent that law have been developed. Charter schools and magnet schools are among the most obvious tools of segregation in public schools.

I read a U.S. Government Accounting Office report that said public schools increasingly are segregated by race and class. Public schools with high poverty and minority student percentages offer fewer math, science and college prep courses and had higher rates of students who were held back in ninth grade, who were suspended or who were expelled. Hispanic students suffer the triple segregation whammies of race, economics and language.

Michigan Cong. John Conyers said the report confirmed that current barriers to education are similar to those fought during the Civil Rights Movement and U.S. Dept. of Education Secretary John King added that six decades after Brown v. Board, America still has failed to close the gaps for Black and Latino students at every level of education.

In many schools, America continues to offer minority students less access to the best teachers, less access to support and services affluent students take for granted, less access to the most challenging courses and less access to what it takes to succeed academically.

A year ago I asked Charleston NAACP her thoughts about the anniversary of Brown V. Board. She said, “We’re not where we started in 1954, but the situation then was so dire we’ve developed an illusion that all is well. Surely if we allow segregation to continue, we will see things go back to where they were before Brown vs. Topeka.” Tell me that ain’t bad enough to make you laugh to keep from crying.

Visitor Comments

Submitted By: Submitted: 5/26/2016
There are magnet and charter schools all over the country. Are they all creating segregation in public schools?

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